My Marketing Friend,

Ready for the catalog marketing secrets?

While what I have to share with you is focused on catalog copywriting, design and marketing, you will find that these marketing ideas can easily be adapted to websites, direct mail and advertising.

Even if your main interest is working as a copywriter, you still need, or should I say you especially need to be a marketing expert.

You need these marketing skills to market your services (order my "Secrets of Freelance Copywriting Jobs" at the bottom of the left side column to learn the many secrets I used as a freelance copywriter.)

Then you need to be able to write copy for clients that also sells. A great marketer will be invaluable as a copywriter no matter who your clients are.

I’ve spent the last 37 years creating very profitable direct mail and catalog companies and working as a consultant to numerous small and large catalogers. And I’ve discovered some amazing catalog marketing secrets! Catalog marketing secrets I’m going to share with you…

A catalog design that sells:

I hope I don’t make any enemies here (I do manage to offend people now and then) but I’ve observed that most folks who design catalogs have no idea of what it takes to make money off of the catalog and some designers might even be horrified to realize that the catalog is supposed to make a profit.

Here’s an example: The CEO of a large catalog company, and also an old friend, called to discuss improving certain aspects of their catalog. One suggestion was to place their most profitable item on their catalog cover.

I was told they couldn’t because these were large items and his catalog designer said she would quit if he tried to put something large on the cover! Later he did take my advice and stuck with it most of his covers. Guess it worked for him.

Before that, he turned down my suggestion of a “letter from the president” on the inside front cover. He said no one ever reads those. My reply was that “if they are boring they won’t get read and if created right they can be a very effective selling tool, a part of creating powerful catalogs.

He finally gave in and I wrote and designed several letters for him. Letters that took them on a tour of the catalog and had them ready to buy before they even got into the catalog.

He was amazed to discover that customers were responding to the letters and referring to some of the things mentioned in them. These letters have been a part of his catalog ever since. (Examples of some of these letters I’ve created for different catalogers can be found on my Catalog Copywriting Secrets page.

There was one of my suggestions I wished my friend had tested with his catalog: Since his average order was very high, I suggested that each request for a catalog should be sent out immediately. Even if it meant sending it out in an envelope via First Class Mail or in a Priority Mail Pak, instead of adding the name to his list and mailing the next scheduled catalog to them.

In my special report, “CATALOG FACTS & FIGURES” it shows how this can double the response from a catalog request. But also give them the special treatment, include a personalized letter and a special offer or discount coupon. This can really increase your catalog results as well as boost the value and life of that new customer!

Sure, a catalog is supposed to look good, but it’s also supposed to make money, lots of money!

Just remember one thing… a design does not sell! An arrangement of your products may look good a certain way and a lot of white space may have a certain appeal, but it doesn’t sell. Sometimes it may even hurt sales. Now, as you are starting to think I’m crazy, consider this…

Your catalog’s only job is to get orders! Lots of orders! While many of your potential catalog customers may be impressed with your slick catalog design, design doesn’t sell!

Here’s how to use your catalog design to sell:

Use a design element to call attention to your products photos. I’ve seen too many catalog designs that distract from the products and the selling message. Some borders going around the page look good and can be artistic. Make them work for their keep… extend some of your products photos over these borders to give your photos a 3D effect.

I love to see product photos popping off the page! Get those products right up there in their face! Use dropshadows under those photos for a 3D effect. Even have some some of the photos extend off the page at angle so that a corner is chopped off by the page edge.

I’ve included some examples of catalogs I’ve designed using these techniques on the Catalog Design Secrets page. 

I’ve seen some horrible catalog pages where some kind of scene is placed in the background. This isn’t going to sell anything. It will just confuse that potential buyer, distract from your product and make your copy hard to read!

What I like to see are catalog pages that are in black and white except for the product photos which are in full color and popping of the page!

Well, maybe that’s not practical, but hopefully you get what I mean. If you want to throw a lot of color in there, go ahead. Just remember, you are selling products, not the design. Use the design to highlight the products. If the first thing that grabs your attention is the design, you are selling designs not products. Re-work it until that product photo reaches out and grabs... grabs attention and grabs the cash!

I’ve seen numerous catalogs that use a great design, but  too often it's used make up for a lack of selling in their catalog. And what I’m trying to get across is that you need to make sure your catalog has plenty of sell-ability. (Yes, I like to make up words too!)

What sells?

An old friend of mine has a catalog stuffed full of his organizational, scheduling products. He puts together his own catalog, and he prides himself on being able to squeeze in more stuff on each page (cover too) than any other cataloger. Since he cringes when I mention his catalog name, I won’t do it. But he claims his "busy" catalog makes a hell of a lot more money than those “pretty” catalogs do!

I’m not recommending you do that to your catalog, but there’s something about his catalog, a certain feel of activity, movement, excitement.

It may also have been because he was putting together his own catalog. His excitement and feelings about his own products were carried over into his catalogs. This excitement, when carried over into the catalog will have you creating powerful catalogs. If your catalog doesn’t have this excitement, it won’t sell. You want a catalog that sells!

It’s difficult for a salesperson to make it if they don’t believe in their products and don’t have this inner excitement, this powerful emotion!

Many of the successful catalogers I’ve met have had a sales background. Such as Bill Dinn of Dinn Bros. Trophy Company. He had a sales background and knew how to make every part of his catalog sell.

Too often a cataloger feels that their catalog is completed and ready to go to press, but there are so many little selling features that can be added which will greatly increase their catalog results!

Catalogers I’ve worked with will probably remember me always saying that it’s "those little, often overlooked, things that make a big difference in the catalog results." Some of these little things can be as simple as slipping into the description of one product in the catalog, a reference to another product that will go with this one.

Little sayings throughout the pages that will motivate to buy or set a certain mood. Showing the product in use. This is important! Do you know how many additional sales can be made in a store by demonstrating a product, bringing it to life and showing how fun or easy-to-use it is? A good example of this can be found in the Antique Hardware & Home catalogs I helped with. Go to the Catalog Design Secrets page and take a look.

Just translate these catalog marketing ideas to your catalog pages. Show products in use. Describe additional uses for the products. Use powerful copy that is exciting, helpful, friendly, and sells! And this is just the beginning!

When I critique a catalog I make sure that many of these additions that fit in with that particular catalog and proven to work in that field, are included. OK, don’t beg, here’s the link so you can find out more about my Critique of Your Catalog.

Your friend for catalog results
Gil Carlson
 I've got some catalog copywriting and marketing secrets to share with you!

Your copywriting is the most important part of your catalog  marketing, so make sure it sells!
I'm Gil Carlson and I've got some copywriting writing and marketing secrets to share with you!
Here's a good example of a catalog cover that sells! Notice how objects appear to be poping off the page towards you?
powerful catalog copywriting for Lifestyle Fascination catalogs allowed room for long copy blocks and I was able to let my imagination run wild!
Notice how the products appear to be jumping up off the page? Plus there's a lot great copy I've written for the folks at Antique Hardware & Home Catalog
Powerful 3D action photos, snappy design and More of my results getting catalog copywriting spelled success for the Carushka Bodywera catalogs
Another successful catalog I helped to create with catalog design ideas and some powerful catalog copywriting
Another successful catalog I helped to create with catalog design ideas and some powerful catalog copywriting
Here's a good example of a catalog cover that sells! Notice how objects appear to be poping off the page towards you?
Notice how the products appear to be jumping up off the page? Plus there's a lot great copy I've written for the folks at Antique Hardware & Home Catalog
Powerful 3D action photos, snappy design and More of my results getting catalog copywriting spelled success for the Carushka Bodywera catalogs 
More powerful catalog copywriting - Just one of the hundreds written for Lifestyle Fascination catalogs - The folks at lifestyle allowed room for long copy blocks and I was able to let my imagination run wild! 
Freelance Copywriting SecretsContact Gil CarlsonWrite Powerful CopyCopywriters Word ListBelievable CopywritingHeadlines That Sell
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Make Website That SellsNovel writing secretsGet novel writing ideasCreating a story line14 book writing ideassubconscious writing
Writing motivation tipsMotivating your writingwriting a good storyBe an inspired writerThe art of storytellingBlog/A BooK That Sells

This page was last updated: January 20, 2013
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Gil Carlson
Gil Carlson
Gil Carlson
37 years innovative direct marketing, copywriting, creating direct response companies and he's ready to share the secrets with you. Are you ready?
Got a Great Novel Stuck in Your Head?

Use these Powerful Catalog Marketing Tips to SELL! SELL! SELL!

By Gil Carlson